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A-Z of Northeast Florida: D is for Daytona Beach

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Just an hour and a half down the coast is “The World’s Most Famous Beach”. Just what is the attraction for over 8,000,000 tourists a year? Let’s take a look, starting with a little history.

The Timucuan Indians were here before any beach bunnies or racecar drivers arrived. In 1804, Samuel Williams received a land grant of 3,000 acres and he built a slave-labor-based plantation to grow cotton, rice and sugar cane. His son later abandoned it after the Seminoles burned it to the ground. In 1871, Mathias Day, Jr. of Mansfield, Ohio, built a hotel there, but soon lost it due to money problems. The town was incorporated in 1876 and ten years later the railway arrived.

Car and motorcycle races began on the beach in 1902.The Daytona International Speedway opened in 1959, and now the city is the headquarters for NASCAR and the Grand American Road Racing Association.The hard-packed sand still allows for driving on the beach, but only up to 10 mph.

Annual Events that draw the crowds:

  • Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona in January
  • Speedweeks in early February – this year’s is the 13th-23rd
  • Daytona 500 on the last Sunday in February – this year’s is February 23rd
  • Spring Break – the dates vary, but it’s usually the beginning of March
  • Bike Week in March – this year it’s March 7-16
  • Coke Zero 400 in July
  • Biketoberfest in October – this year it’s October 16-19

Other places to visit

  • The Museum of Arts and Sciences (MOAS), including the Charles and Linda William's Children's Museum
  • Southeast Museum of Photography on the campus of Daytona State College
  • Halifax Historical Museum – housed in the historical Merchants Bank Building
  • Ocean Walks Shoppes – an open air mall
  • Daytona Beach Boardwalk and Pier with the Joyland Amusement Center, including a giant Ferris wheel.
  • Daytona Lagoon Waterpark with 12 rides plus mini-golf
  • Downtown Farmers Market every Saturday from 7am-1pm
  • Downtown’s Riverfront Shops with over 60 shops and restaurants
  • Angell and Phelps chocolate – they give tours!
  • News-Journal Center for a show
  • Daytona Cubs Baseball at the Jackie Robinson Ballpark: April – August

"There have been other tracks that have separated the men from the boys. This is the track that will separate the brave from the weak after the boys are gone."
-- Jimmy Thompson, on Daytona

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